How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Your Ultimate Guide

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How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Your Ultimate Guide
Table of Contents
  1. How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Your Ultimate Guide
  2. What is Synthesis
  3. Synthesis Essay: Definition
  4. Classification
  5. Working with Sources
  6. Synthesis Essay Structure
  7. Synthesis Essay Introduction
  8. Body
  9. Synthesis Essay Conclusion
  10. Formatting Synthesis Essay
  11. Topics
  12. Bottom Line

Students are often asked to compose essays as part of their test or assignment, and one of the most common requirements is to work with outside sources. A synthesis essay is one of those papers where you need to conduct thorough literature research. In this article, we have gathered the best tips on how to write a synthesis essay. Read this step-by-step guide to discover the tricks of the whole process, including your research and paper organization. But if you are running out of time, consider asking our essay writer pro for help!

What is Synthesis

As you may guess, a synthesis essay requires synthesizing some information. While the idea is simple, most students may find it a bit confusing. To ensure that you stay on the same page with your teacher, let's first figure out the meaning of this rather sophisticated word.

In a nutshell, the term 'synthesize' means to combine several things into a cohesive whole. In terms of academic writing, synthesizing a text is similar to cooking – it requires mixing ingredients the right way – one wrong move and all your work is doomed to failure. In other words, you need to present a coherent idea by gathering relevant information from different sources. But don't confuse it with writing an informative essay, where you just inform the readers. 

Synthesis Essay: Definition

Now that you are familiar with the term's definition, let's clear up what a synthesis essay is. In short, a synthesis paper requires a student to build a unique position on a subject by connecting the dots from two or more sources. The purpose of this essay goes beyond a surface-level reading experience; a synthesis paper aims to earn the reader's trust in the first place.

Various sources can be used in a synthesis essay ranging from scientific publications and articles to public speeches and interviews. However, in the academic context, students will most likely deal with at least two written works.

No matter what sources a student chooses for a synthesis essay, there are several things one should keep in mind: all references should be relevant, up-to-date (no older than 5 years), and credible (meaning the author is trustworthy).


Before writing a synthesis essay, students need to identify the writing type it belongs to. In general, there are three main categories of synthesis in academic writing:

  • Argumentative synthesis. As any other argumentative essay, this paper type presents a decent thesis statement supported by relevant examples. The name of the argumentative synthesis essay speaks for itself: a student needs to make an argument and prove it with evidence gathered from credible sources. All claims and main points should be stated in a logical order. Don't miss our guide on how to write a good argumentative essay.
  • Literature review. Basically, it's a summary of the recent literature on a chosen subject. Literature reviews offer a thorough analysis of all primary and secondary sources used in the article. Discussing such sources is just necessary, since at this point, students may gain unique synthesis insights for their writing.
  • Background synthesis. This essay type provides background information and facts on a topic so that the readers can get a better picture. Instead of taking sides, the main task is to compose an informative piece of content relying on trusted sources.

Working with Sources

Writing a synthesis essay starts with thorough research of sources. While there is no strict order of steps to make while working with sources, the guide below will certainly make the process easier:

  • Choose a topic and ask questions. Once you come up with a great synthesis essay topic, brainstorm all questions related to the subject. Writing down these subtopics will give you a clue on what information you need to research.
  • Do preliminary research. Make sure there is enough information on the potential question drawn from your topic. Using sources in your writing will be a piece of cake after thorough preliminary research and analysis. Choose at least two references to examine and try to identify how to integrate them in your paper.
  • Stick to the main objective. As you do your research, remember to stick to the primary purpose of synthesis essays. Reveal the connection between different parts of your sources and link them together.
  • Develop a thesis statement. Once you have done preliminary research, try to narrow down your topic to a specific subject. Next, compose a thesis statement to guide the writing process.
  • Do further research. Sometimes, when writing a synthesis essay, students may realize that they lack other sources or gain insight into finding better references. You can do additional research to add more credible sources if needed.
Now that you are ready for the writing process let's discover what makes a good synthesis essay structure.

Synthesis Essay Structure

The point-by-point structure is what every student needs to learn how to write a synthesis essay outline. Such paper organization is similar to the table of contents: it contains the points and subpoints on the given topic. There are several essential components a student should include into a synthesis essay outline:

  • An essay introduction that presents the main idea and sources, and ends with a thesis statement (if applicable)
  • Body paragraphs each starting with a topic sentence and uncovering a single point drawn from two or more sources
  • A conclusion with the restated thesis (if there is one), summary, and a powerful concluding sentence.

The number of paragraphs in a synthesis paper may vary depending on the type of source analysis you choose to make. When it comes to this point, students are free to leverage their creativity to the fullest. Building connections, examining things separately, comparing and contrasting – it all is up to you. As a result, the paper organization may differ from that used in other types of academic writing.

Here's another way to structure your synthesis essay. It's based on the "source-by-source" essay outline with the element of comparison:

  • Introduction of the texts selected for synthesis
  • Body part
    1. Summary of the sources
    2. Synthesis paragraph introducing the contrasting opinions in each source
    3. Synthesis paragraph – similar points shared by all sources
  • Conclusion with some predictions and implementations

When writing a synthesis essay, don't hesitate to use your own approach. Now, let's hit the ground running and discuss each paper section in detail.

Synthesis Essay Introduction

While having the right resources to compare in a synthesis essay is all well and good, none of that matters if the audience is not engaged. To win the interest of a picky reader (chances are your professor is the one), one good idea is to kick-start your piece with sensational information. And the fact that you need to walk the fine line between the strict guidelines and a fresh approach makes the mission complicated. Here's how to shake things up a bit:

  • Start with a powerful hook sentence. By opening your synthesis essay up with a staggering fact, shocking statistics, or appealing citation, you will make the reader want to read the piece from cover to cover.
  • Give an overview of the subject. Providing some background information is just part of what you should bring to the table. A fine-tuned overview should spark curiosity and get the readers prepared for reading.
  • Build a strong thesis statement.  Generally, your thesis should go at the end of the introductory paragraph. However, if you decide to skip a hook sentence and a brief overview, it may also appear in the very beginning of your introduction. A strong thesis should reflect your synthesis essay's main idea that you will support with the arguments and proper examples selected from the sources.


The best part starts when you get to write the body of your synthesis essay. This is the most enlightening section of your piece since here, you need to present your entire research. As said earlier, unlike other types of writing, a synthesis essay doesn't limit your choice to a specific structure. This is definitely good news for the students encouraged to show their creativity.

With so many writing methods available out there, the choice may be uneasy. However, there is one tried and tested formula you can use to craft the body paragraphs – the MEAL plan. It guarantees a coherent presentation of arguments and the smooth flow of thoughts. Let's see what the MEAL approach stands for:

  • Main idea. In terms of a body paragraph, it's otherwise called a topic sentence. This section is where you introduce your main argument on the topic. Make sure to provide your personal idea on the subject matter in the topic sentences.
  • Evidence. In this section of the body paragraph, you should provide supporting examples that will prove your argument. Put into play source material carefully chosen during your preliminary research. The most common type of evidence is citations.
  • Analysis. A decent analysis should be the heart and soul of your body paragraph. Here, you should discuss, compare or contrast the examples of textual material. In other words, do your best to prove your argument.
  • Lead-out. This section works as a smooth transition from the main point explained in the current body paragraph to another point you will analyze in the next section. To create this link, you should simply restate the main idea and then preview what will be discussed in the next paragraph.

The MEAL plan is by far the most popular in academic writing. However, you are more than welcome to adopt a different approach to discuss the sources used in your synthesis essay.

Synthesis Essay Conclusion

Much like the introduction and the body of your paper, how you conclude a synthesis essay determines the target audience's overall impression. One good suggestion is to summarize the sources explained in the body paragraphs. There is no need to develop new concepts in the conclusion of your synthesis essay. Instead, you may want to prove the further significance of your analysis.

To make your conclusion even more profound, do not hesitate to motivate your audience for extra research and reflection. Leave your readers with some food for thoughts about the topic of the synthesis essay.

Formatting Synthesis Essay 

The synthesis essay format depends on the specific instructions given in your assignment or writing prompt. Some of the most typical paper formats used in academic writing include:

  • APA: applicable for Education, Psychology, and Science
  • MLA: used for Humanities
  • Chicago style: used for Business, Fine Arts, and History
  • ASA format: used in Sociology.

The major difference between these three categories lies in the way you cite the sources. Make sure to check out the requirements of each style to format your synthesis essay accordingly.


The last thing we would like to ensure is that you can choose a compelling synthesis essay topic. In case you need to write such paper in the AP test, most likely, you will have a question to address in the writing prompt. In other cases, most high school or college teachers will encourage you to come up with topic ideas on your own.

Feeling like your brain is running out of resources? Check out this list of good synthesis essay topics that will get you started in no time:

  1. How a total lockdown affects high school or college students' academic performance?
  2. How does social media influence college students?
  3. What is the impact of texting on teens' literacy?
  4. Do violent video games cause violence in students?
  5. Should drug tests on animals be allowed?
  6. Should free medical services be accessible for all US citizens?
  7. Does monthly impact people's sense of happiness?
  8. What are the major factors that make cryptocurrency work?
  9. Explain the evolution of beauty standards throughout centuries.
  10. Does consumerism make people happier?
  11. Should people be allowed to keep guns at home?
  12. Should capital punishment be abolished?
  13. How does illegal immigration affect the employment of US citizens?
  14. What is the influence of housing estates on ecology?
  15. How has air pollution changed over the last 20 years?

Bottom Line

Synthesis essay writing requires students to do a thorough research of sources carefully gathered to sustain your arguments. As you craft a paper, make sure to incorporate at least two credible references in your piece. Try to focus on the underlying idea of analysis to link the sources together. No doubt, this task needs you to put much effort and time. However, it takes only one click to get your unique paper done by an expert. Backed by our professional team, we will deliver the best writing solution available out there. Tap the button below to get academic assistance now.